Many of you have heard of the proposal for a formal separation of the United Methodist Church into a conservative and a liberal church. On one hand, our bishops and bureaucracy are strongly liberal. But despite being a mainline church, American Methodism has a plurality of conservative, traditionalist members, and there’s a strong evangelical current. Moreover, through our missionary work, we have grown strongly overseas, especially in Africa, and these members are overwhelmingly conservative. Last year, the number of conservative delegates grew to an outright majority and were able to pass the Traditional Plan, which re-enforced existing discipline for clergy violating rules against homosexual practice or performing same-sex marriages.
So, with the discipline clear and with a growing conservative majority, is all well for my side? It seems not. Acknowledging the liberal hold on the institutions and the episcopacy, a proposal has been put forward that anticipates the formation of a new traditional Methodist denomination and would allow individual congregations or whole conferences to vote to separate from the UMC and join the new church. There would be a $25 million payment to the new denomination. I haven’t seen anything about the ownership of local church property, but I suspect congregations would keep those. The property fights that have characterized recent splits in other denominations have been blessedly absent in our discussions.More